By Janice Malone
As student’s head back to the classroom this month, one local scholar has something to celebrate alongside her studies. Tennessee State University rising senior Adrienne Harris has won a scholarship from the United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative to help support her pursuit of a career in the health care field.
Harris, who is originally from Charlotte, N.C., is pursuing a major in Healthcare Administration and Planning from TSU’s College of Health Sciences. She received a $4,400 scholarship to help support her tuition as she works toward a career in management at a hospital, clinic or other health care facility. “Through the United Health Foundation scholarship program, I have been working to achieve my career aspiration of helping to improve the operational functions of a health care facility or company,” said Harris, who is considering graduate school after earning her bachelor’s degree from TSU.
United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative, through its partner organizations, is awarding more than $1.2 million in scholarships this year to more than 200 students from diverse, multicultural backgrounds. This is part of the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to building a more diverse health care workforce. From 2007 through this year, United Health Foundation will have awarded nearly 1,000 scholarships, totaling more than $5 million, to students like Harris throughout the country. “We know patients do best when they are treated by people who understand their language and culture,” said Kate Rubin, president of United Health Foundation. “United Health Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to help support these outstanding students who are demonstrating impressive purpose and passion and who will help lead the way to better health access and outcomes.”
According to a report from the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce, African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population but only 4 percent of physicians, 5 percent of nurses and 5 percent of dentists. American Latinos, who represent 16 percent of the total population, account for only 4 percent of physicians, 6 percent of nurses and 5 percent of dentists.
Harris was one of many Diverse Scholar scholarship recipients who attended the Diverse Scholars Forum in Washington, D.C., in June. During the event, Harris and her peers heard from a range of speakers, including the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration Secretary Mary Wakefield, and UnitedHealth Group Executive Vice President Tony Welters. In addition, students attended a congressional reception where they were able to interact with members of Congress and their staffers, as well as leaders from a variety of health care fields.